Now that I am married to a US citizen, do I have a right to remain in the United States?

Marriage to a US citizen does not automatically grant you any immigration benefits. You must file paperwork with the US Department of Homeland Security in order to secure the right to remain in the United States.

I have married a US citizen and want to stay in the US. What should I do now?

You have the option of becoming a US permanent resident (getting your “green card”). The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has excellent information on their website. We suggest you read the following page: Family of U.S. Citizens.

Also review the instructions for the forms you submit. The instructions include important information not found elsewhere about how to complete each form as well as the numerous supporting documents you are required to submit with the forms.

If you hold J status and are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, you must fulfill that requirement or obtain a waiver before you can file for permanent residence.

Now that I have read the USCIS website I have several questions. Who can answer them?

We advise you to contact an attorney who practices immigration law, schedule an appointment, and bring your list of questions to the meeting.

How can I find a good lawyer?

There are many ways to find lawyers:

  • Check the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website,, click Immigration Lawyer Referral Service.
  • Call your local bar association lawyer referral service. In King County, contact the King County Bar Association at 206-267-7100 or
  • Consult a law directory, such as the King County Lawyers Directory and Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory Volume 12, which gives a brief biography of lawyers practicing in the Seattle area.
  • Look in the telephone book under “attorneys.” Some attorneys will list their legal specialty which they prefer to practice.

What can UW do to help me?

International Scholars Operations (ISO) can provide information regarding your H-1B, TN, E-3, F-1 or J-1 status, but cannot assist you in filing any paperwork related to your permanent residence application. If you marry a US citizen, you should seek the advice of an immigration attorney.

Should I tell UW that I have married a US citizen?

ISO needs to know if your immigration status changes. Also contact your Payroll Coordinator if you are a UW employee.

Now that I have married a US citizen, am I required to become a permanent resident?

No. You are not required to apply for permanent residence unless you plan to reside in the US on a permanent basis.

Can I become a permanent resident of the US if my spouse is a permanent resident but not a US citizen?

Yes. However, you should seek the advice from an attorney regarding this procedure, as it is a very long and complex process.

If I travel, will I have problems returning to the US?

You may. We recommend you seek the advice of your immigration attorney regarding this matter.

Once you are married to a US citizen, you may have difficulties returning to the United States because the US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) may assume that you have the intent to immigrate to the United States. Individuals in J-1,TN, or E-3 status will likely not be allowed to enter the US if their intention is to immigrate.

Also, if you chose to file paperwork to become a permanent resident while in the United States (Adjustment of Status), you cannot travel on your J, TN, or E-3 visa. Doing so would cause your I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident to be abandoned and denied. Instead, you will need to file an I-131 Application for Advance Parole and wait for it to be approved. You can travel once you have the Advance Parole document and may travel freely during its validity period.

Individuals in H-1B status may continue to travel abroad and re-enter the US on the basis of that H-1B even after they marry a US citizen and file permanent residence paperwork.

May I continue to work?

If you do not file permanent residence paperwork, your marriage will have no effect on your ability to continue working on the basis of your J, TN, or E-3 status.

If you do file permanent residence paperwork, your continued work authorization may depend on your particular situation and you should proceed cautiously.

Consult with your attorney regarding eligibility to work after filing the permanent residence application, and whether applying for an Employment Authorization Document is necessary or advisable.

If you are in H-1B status, you may continue to work on the H-1B as long as you maintain H-1B status. You may extend your H-1B if your permanent residence application is pending and you are otherwise eligible to do so.